Back with the academics, a scattering of climatologists, ecologists, and biologists – as well as a somewhat larger number of their students, had elected to sign up for Elzeard’s practical training program – even with the somewhat bizarre security restrictions. What possible point could there be in only allowing censored communications home – but then lifting all restrictions after a few months? Would the secrets no longer matter after a few months?
Oh of course! He was planning to publish!
Besides, Charles would be needing some reasonably respectable people onboard to help explain as soon as he was ready to open the interplanetary gate network.
They got a bit of a shock when they arrived in Aden – but they got the “artificial world” notion with one glance at the horizon and it’s positive curvature. Some knowledge of geology was a necessity for them – and Aden’s was quite different from Earth’s, or any planet’s.
They could dismiss a lot of things as “genetic engineering” to begin with – but even the hard cases had to give up on that eventually.
Meanwhile, Aikiko was sending in her written report of her suspicions and findings to Lytek – and composing a partial copy for the Silver Faction; she didn’t know where she could find any of the Lunars herself, but they certainly could!
Trouble was, she had to send it in anonymously – which meant that it was pretty unlikely that they’d pay that much attention at first – and when somebody DID get around to it… Even if they were willing to discount the anonymous source and their general business, it was just NUTS. Still, it might at least get them started!
So: it was time to head for the Besi Hantuperajin!
And then someone’s beeping cell phone in the next room triggered another thought.
She REALLY ought to tell her parents that she was going to be competing in one of the great martial arts tournaments of the world. She’d… sent a letter or two, but she really hadn’t been in contact with them since Arnmalassaris; she’d mostly been up in Yu-Shan and away from Atlanta.
OK, she’d sent a few emails – it wasn’t like Yu-Shan didn’t have access – but that was kind of impersonal and it all went through WWW. He claimed that he didn’t look, but everyone knew that he could decrypt anything he wanted to and thought that information wanted to be free… Of course, his arch-enemy DMCA kept trying to stop him, but so far it was no contest…
At least earthly phone calls weren’t under his sway. Ma Bell and her offspring were still holding strong on that…
The computer gods in general were way too fast-paced for Celestial life; it was no wonder that they made pests of themselves.
She placed the call.
(The Male Parental Unit, A.K.A. “Dad” and “Yoshiro Tanaka”) “Hello? AIKIKO?!?! Where on earth have you been? Your mother’s been in a panic! Just a couple of weird – and blatantly censored – messages!”
(Aikiko) “Uh… Hi, Dad!” (Damn, think fast… ) “I got a job. I’m doing freelance investigation work and traveling all over the place! Sorry I didn’t call-it’s been pretty hectic.”
He probably wouldn’t buy it, but it WAS the truth! In a way anyhow!
Actually he boggled somewhat at “job”. Freelance was only what he’d expect…
(Yoshiro) “Investigation? Don’t you need all kinds of licences for that kind of thing?”
Uh… hoo boy, how to explain why she didn’t have a license? Saying it was under the table, even if THAT was also true, was not going to fly!
Despite a momentary urge to claim she was with the CIA (“Celestial Intervention Agency!”), she had to admit that the truth always seemed to work reasonably well for Charles…
(Aikiko) “It’s supernatural investigation! The pay’s not that great (and probably not remarkable by Yu-Shan standards, to be sure, she thought to herself) but it’s enough to get by.”
Of course all her parents knew was that she seemed less stoned and more energetic these days, and that she was somehow keeping up a decent standard of living, but other than that? No.
(Yoshiro) “Supernatural? What do they do?
(Aikiko) “They investigate weird phenomena, like that Godzilla attack in Washington State! I don’t know if you heard about it… some fraternity prank.”
(Yoshiro) “Oh! Like that Fortean bunch…hunting for ghosts, and yeti, and so on.”
Well, he had to admit that his daughter would probably be good at that.
(Aikiko) “Yeah! And next I’m going to investigate this martial arts tournament in Malaysia.”
(Yoshiro) “Well now! I’ve seen a few bits about that… And this group got you in? It’s supposed to be pretty exclusive!”
(Aikiko) “It took some talking, but yeah! I’m going to get to the bottom of it!”
(Yoshiro) “Well now… (Huh! It sounded like Aikiko had actually found a job that suited her!) that… sounds just your style! I take it that even if it doesn’t pay well it covers travel expenses?”
(Aikiko) “Yeah, it’s pretty sweet that way – and the best part of it is, I got a bit role with Toho because of it!”
(Yoshiro, with some surprise) “Toho? Wait… Er… giant monster movies?”
(Aikiko) “Well, I auditioned while I was researching in Tokyo, and they gave me a bit part in a monster hunter movie! Yeah, I didn’t know they did more than Godzilla either.”
(Yoshiro) “Well… It sounds like you’re doing well.”
That in itself was something of a surprise… He’d been kind of afraid that Aikiko would end up in a ditch somewhere, or dead of an overdose, or some such.
Aikiko spent some time talking about the mortal friends she’d made in Yu-Shan – without actually getting too specific about where she’d met them.
(Aikiko) “Well, tell Mom (Rei Yoshiro) I’m doing OK! It’s not easy being out on my own, but it’s exciting!”
(Yoshiro) “Oh, if you can’t wait is there a number where she can call you back?”
Aikiko considered for a moment… The Celestial Number had it’s own special coding, and was far too long to be mistaken for a normal phone number… well, it would probably pass for an international one. She provided it.
Sadly her father soon ran out of time because he had an appointment, and had to settle for well-wishing and farewells.
Aikiko said goodbye as well because she was running out of minutes… Man she needed to upgrade her plan! Maybe she could get her Salary raised? Or get a Cult started?
Oh well! At least Lytek was funding her travels… He had the Salary for any amount of that – and that meant that she could easily take a plane to Malaysia. She could use the extra time to have a little fun on the beach and do some recon.
The tournament was held in Pahang, at a confluence of mountain valleys where many streams flow together. The land was terraced and intensively cultivated, the local water spirits were greatly venerated, and – despite the attempts by the muslim authorities to stamp out such worship – were were still mjor powers in the area. Sadly, a few of the fundamentalist islamists were running a terror-campaign to wipe out the old ways.
What with the massive influx or master martial artists that had not gone so well recently. Still… Ugh. Terrorists.
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